5 Easy DIY Car Projects (And 5 You Should Leave to the Pros)
Have you heard the news that cars in the U.S. can now stay on the road for up to a whopping 11.5 years?
That’s some good news, all right! Especially since the average transaction price of light vehicles today have gone up to $36,270!
It’s also this price and longer service life that propelled the Do-It-Yourself revolution. Much thanks to these DIY car projects, you can further trim your vehicle-related costs. Finish these maintenance projects successfully, and you don’t have to worry about a $500- to $600-car repair bill!
The question is, which of these projects can you handle and complete with a feeling of pride? You shouldn’t let the prospect of saving a lot make you forget about your DIY skills and capabilities.
That said, we’ve come up with this list of car maintenance tips you can give a go and those that you better go pro with.
The DIY Car Projects You Can Handle Even as a Rookie
From putting in new air, oil, and fuel filters to changing wipers, you can give these auto maintenance projects a try, regardless of your DIY skill level.
1. Swap in a New Air Filter
No special tools needed for this – you only need to buy a new air filter! What’s more, air filters are cheap, averaging around $15.
Here’s how to swap the choked filter with a brand new one:
- Pop the hood open and look for the air filter case (this is black in most cars, with metal clips attached to the side).
- Unclip and remove the old filter from the case, making sure no debris gets into the filter box.
- Gently slide the new filter in.
- Close and secure the clips back on.
That’s it! You now have a new air filter that’ll keep your engine safe from debris and contaminants.
2 and 3. Change the Oil and Oil Filter
Safety first! Change the oil and oil filter only when you’re sure they’re both cool. The last thing you want is to suffer from burns (and have no way of going about your DIY car maintenance tasks).
Once you’re confident you can handle the oil safely, follow these steps:
- Jack up the vehicle while it’s parked on level ground.
- Look for the oil pan’s drain plug on your car’s underside and with a recycling container ready, drain the used oil.
- With your oil filter wrench, take the old filter off – together with the rubber gasket.
- Put some lubricant on the new filter’s rubber gasket before filling 2/3 of it with fresh oil.
- Secure the new filter in tight, but make sure you don’t strip its threads.
- Open the car hood, unscrew the oil cap, and refill your engine with filtered fresh oil.
- Once you’ve made sure you have enough oil, be sure to put the cap back on.
This one takes a little more effort (and about an hour of your time). It’s still cheap (20 bucks for the new oil and filter) though, so it’s one auto maintenance chore you can do on your own.
4. Replace the Fuel Filter
What will it cost you to replace your ride’s fuel filter? $20 and half an hour, if you do it by yourself, that’s what!
It’s pretty straightforward, once you’ve relieved the fuel system pressure. To do this, look for your fuse box’s fuel pump fuse. Fire up the engine, and while it’s running, get the fuse or relay out of the box.
So long as you did things right, you can expect your engine to die (don’t worry, this is normal!). From here, make sure you follow these instructions to a T:
- Look for the fuel filter and the fuel lines running to it.
- Secure a couple of wrenches to the fuel lines, making sure you cover the lines with a rag (safety precaution in case some pressure remains in them).
- To disconnect the fuel lines, hold the wrench you placed on the filter, then turn the other one until the bolt pops out.
- With a gentle sliding motion, take off the line from the bolt (do the same with the other line).
- Take the used filter out.
- Before popping in the new fuel filter, replace the washers you’ll find on the bolts (you removed in the previous steps).
- Secure the fresh filter in by reversing the above-discussed steps.
- Put the pump or relay back into place.
If you followed everything in this guide, you’d have no problems firing up the engine.
5. Putting in New Windshield Wipers
10 minutes and a $15-damage to your wallet. That’s everything that goes into replacing your worn wipers.
- With the wipers up and away from the windshield, look for a “button” on the wipers’ underside and then press it so you can slide them off their respective arms.
- Hold the new wiper in a way that its plastic clip faces the arm hook’s open end.
- Lower the new wiper gently onto the arm until you can pull it tight (you’ll hear a clicking sound that tells you it’s secured in place).
- Rest the finished wiper arm onto the windshield and do the same steps with the other side.
Congratulations, you now have new wipers that’ll take care of all that bird and insect excrements!
The Tasks You Better Leave in the Hands of Pros
Your DIY skills can only take your cost-cutting projects so far, so it’s best you don’t overestimate your abilities. Doing so is the quickest way to racking up even more expenses because of costly mistakes.
Here are some of the more complex auto maintenance tasks best done by pros:
1. Replacing Cracked or Damaged Windshields
Whether it’s a small crack or a bigger web of a windshield mess, you’re better off paying for a reliable windshield replacement service. Safety first, people.
2. Repairing Damages Caused by a Car Crash
Even if it’s not your fault, a car crash could’ve damaged the internal workings of your vehicle that you don’t have any way of determining on your own. Reputable professional mechanics have testing equipment capable of discovering these problems an average joe can’t.
3. Fixing Air Bag Issues
You wouldn’t want to fiddle with these on your own because they house small explosives. The word explosives should be enough for you to hire experienced mechanics when you have problems with your air bags.
4. Getting Your AC/Heater to Work Right
Just like how a faulty HVAC can give rise to mold growth in your home, the same applies to your car’s HVAC system. You don’t want your car smelling musty and causing breathing issues, do you?
At the same time, you don’t want to tinker with this part of your car, especially if you don’t have the know-how on stuff like pressure, thermodynamics, and refrigerants.
5. Faulty Gears
Whether you change gears with a manual or an automatic system, both types are complex and complicated. Adjusting and fixing gear problems often require precision and specialized tools.
Save Money on Doable DIY Auto Maintenance
Everyone has their skill level when it comes to completing DIY car projects. The important thing here is acknowledging your skills and abilities, so as not to end up with more bills for making pricey mistakes.
Also, if you want even more money-saving auto-related tips and tricks, be sure to check our blog posts on this subject!